Pack It In.
This is the Graco Pack ‘n Play. It’s a foldable playpen. Or playard which is a terrible sounding word, playard. Go ahead, try and say it with any measure of dignity. It’s impossible. It’s a soft word that sticks in your mouth like saltwater taffy.
But let’s be honest, semantics aside, the Graco Pack ‘n Play is a baby cage. It’s a baby containment device, somewhere to put your baby when she’s fussy or cranky or when she’s opening your booze drawer. If this were prison, the Pack ‘n Play would be baby solitary confinement.
In fact, every time my daughter enters her baby cage, she’s interviewed by Mean Gene Okerlund and cuts a promo about Hulkamania. It’s very odd. Allow me to continue with the 1980s cage references.
She’s Mad Max, it’s the baby Thunderdome. And right now, she’s beyond Thunderdome.
Yes, despite the focus of the word “play” in this product’s various names, my daughter never plays in it.
There was a brief moment in time where she enjoyed tolerated being in the Pack ‘n Play. Those briefest of months between sitting and walking, it was a time where you could place her within the cage and give her some toys and she would be occupied for maybe half an hour.
But then, like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park, she grew tired of her confinement and wanted out. Electrifying the fences didn’t help in either instance.
Even the word “pack” in its title is misleading.
Yes, you pack it. Especially when you’re going somewhere overnight because it’s main function as we’ve discovered is as a temporary crib. But you mainly unpack it, at least if you’re the baby’s father.
Look out your window around Christmas or Thanksgiving or any other holiday where new parents are bound to visit grandparents and you’ll see this scenario. The mother and baby go into the house to see the excited relatives. The father gets a cursory hello before returning to the car to retrieve the Pack ‘n Play. Then comes the setup.
Setting up the Pack ‘n Play is job number one for dad and it’s not easy. It doesn’t unfold in one swift movement like a magical tent. It requires time and patience and repeated attempts. One the scale of frustrating assembly it’s somewhere between light bulb replacement and IKEA furniture.
I’ve come to recognize that, despite its frustrations, unpacking the Pack ‘n Play is a good thing. It means my daughter is spending the night somewhere else and that she’ll be surrounded by other people, likely grandparents, who want to play. And that play is worth packing for.